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Chicago Sun-Times Fires Entire Photography Staff in Favor of iPhone Media

We here at Mac|Life love our iPhones, but we’d never go so far as to say that it makes everyone into a professional photographer. But that’s apparently what the Chicago Sun-Times thinks, as it recently laid off its entire photography staff in favor of teaching its regular reporters “iPhone photography basics” so they can produce their own photos and, yes, videos. It’s an especially bizarre decision for the Sun-Times, which is known for taking adventage of its tabloid format to deliver photo-heavy editions.

The demand for video, at least, is the reason provided in a statement that the Sun-Times released earlier:

“The Sun-Times business is changing rapidly and our audiences are consistently seeking more video content with their news. We have made great progress in meeting this demand and are focused on bolstering our reporting capabilities with video and other multimedia elements. The Chicago Sun-Times continues to evolve with our digitally savvy customers, and as a result, we have had to restructure the way we manage multimedia, including photography, across the network.”

Above: Today’s Sun-Times cover indicates just how photo-heavy the Sun-Times can be.

Cult of Mac placed the decision in the context of the many ways in which the iPhone, which now has resolutions better than many point-and-shoots, is changing journalism. When Hurricane Sandy landed in New York, they point out, reporters for Time used the magazine’s Instagram account to upload photos. One of the reporters’ photos was even used for the cover story.

Still, in a widely circulated editorial in Chicago, Chicago Tribune (the Sun-Times’ rival paper) photographer Alex Garcia pointed out the many problems with the approach. “An iPhone is just an iPhone. It doesn’t have a telephoto to see way past police lines or across a field, ballroom or four-lane highway,” Garcia said. “It doesn’t have a lot of manual controls to deal with the countless situations that automatic exposure will fail to capture. How many situations are 18 percent gray, anyway?”

Garcia also argued that the Sun-Times’ video argument is flawed. “I have never been in a newsroom where you could do someone else’s job and also do yours well,” Garcia said. “Even when I shoot video and stills on an assignment, with the same camera, both tend to suffer. They require different ways of thinking.”

According to Crain’s Chicago Business, the number of photographers affected by the decision at the nation’s tenth largest newspaper could be as high as 30, if both part-time and full-time photographers are included. It’s but another indication of the troubles faced by print newspapers, and the Chicago Sun-Times is feeling the pain more than most, which may account for the fairly unprecedented decision. As the Chicago Tribune reports, the Sun-Times recently failed to meet the demands of a million printing agreement with the Tribune itself. It’s unknown what impact the recent loss of beloved movie critic and Sun-Times icon Roger Ebert had on the paper’s fortunes, but it couldn’t have been good.

The layoffs included Pulitzer-Prize winning photojournalist John H. White, who had been at the Sun-Times since 1978. 

Follow this article’s Chicago-based writer, Leif Johnson, on Twitter.


With Trade-In Program, Best Buy Offers Free iPhone 5 Units Tomorrow Only

If you’ve been looking for a good reason to trade in your iPhone 4 or 4s for an iPhone 5, you’ll have a hard time finding a better deal than Best Buy’s promotion for Saturday–provided, that is, you meet the requirements. According to CNet, when you bring in your activated iPhone 4 or 4s into a physical Best Buy store tomorrow, you’ll get a 0 credit toward the purchase of a new iPhone 5, essentially making it a free trade.

This comes on the heels of the news that Best Buy lowered the price of the iPhone 5 to 0 for the 16 GB models. Under Best Buy’s one-day offer, the only charges you’ll have to pay are those for any applicable sales tax or activation fees. To qualify, you’ll need to activate a two-year contract with either AT&T, Verizon, or Sprint, and you need to be eligible for an upgrade. That, and you’ll need to visit the store in person. The offer will only be available tomorrow, Saturday, June 1.

Still, there may be better alternatives available. A representative from Gazelle contacted us this morning, informing us that the online recommerce company is offering 0 for used iPhone 4 models and 5 for used iPhone 4s units. Under Gazelle’s model, they send you a prepaid box to send your iPhone to them, after which they follow up with a check to be used toward a new model.

The main difference is the wait involved (assuming you’re already close to a Best Buy location), although Gazelle also pointed out that their approach appeals to consumers who aren’t always ready to give away their previous phone models once they purchase a new one.

Follow this article’s writer, Leif Johnson, on Twitter.


AT&T Adding LTE/HSPA+, iPhone Support to GoPhone Prepaid Service

AT&T GoPhoneAT&T’s prepaid GoPhone service and the iPhone have always had a complicated relationship — mostly because the carrier limited its service to voice and text. But that’s about to change at long last.

MacRumors reported Thursday
that AT&T is about to expand its prepaid GoPhone service, which will now include support for the carrier’s 4G LTE and HSPA+ network for the first tim ever.

Prepaid and no-contract services have been heating up over the last year or so, particularly now that so many of these carriers now support the iPhone. AT&T has been a curious omission since Apple debuted the handset in 2007, refusing to include cellular data access for that device with its GoPhone service.

That will apparently change for existing GoPhone customers starting June 21, with three service plans available for the iPhone, including a per month package with unlimited voice and text plus 1GB of LTE-capable data. Cheaper and plans are also available, but require a separate data package purchase.

4G LTE via prepaid will be a welcome change, since most services such as Straight Talk are limited to slower data seeds. The report also claims official Visual Voicemail support will be part of the GoPhone package as well.

Although there has been no official announcement from AT&T, the new GoPhone expansion is expected to launch today, but existing customers will need to call the carrier in order to manually be upgraded prior to June 21.

Follow this article’s author, J.R. Bookwalter on Twitter



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Xbox One Will Bring More Integration with SmartGlass on iPhone, iPad

The biggest news to come out of the tech world this morning was easily Microsoft’s announcement of its new Xbox One console (along with the 9 percent spike in Sony’s stock price during the reveal). Surprisingly, the upcoming release of Microsoft’s new gaming console brings with it some good news for iOS users as well. Specifically, Xbox’s SmartGlass application will be “fully integrated” with Microsoft’s new console, thus allowing users of iPhones and iPads to connect seamlessly with the next generation of Microsoft’s popular console series.

Introduced last year and allegedly downloaded by over 10 million people, SmartGlass currently allows users to interact with their Xbox 360 consoles in a number of limited ways, such as using the iPhone’s keyboard to type onscreen (a significant improvement over the hunt-and-peck nature of gamepad-based input), watching videos, and navigating menus. It’s a little gimmicky in its current implementation, as specialized apps such as HBO Go and Netflix arguably do a better job with the video services.

Currently, it’s not too clear what Microsoft’s “fully integrated” service entails. According to an article from Wired this morning, future versions of SmartGlass will let users turn their iPhones or iPads into a “skeuomorphic remote control, able to emulate any other control device.” The Verge also announced that “We’ve also learned that it’ll let more devices connect at once for multiplayer and shared experiences,” but failed to elaborate. That’s not terribly different from SmartGlass’s current design, however, although other features might make it worth checking out for Xbox fans with iDevices.

Further details are expected to be revealed at this year’s E3 conference in Los Angeles from June 11-13.

Follow this article’s author, Leif Johnson, on Twitter.


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